Do give Brown this: The books are a lot more balanced now than they were when he took office in January — balanced with additional spending cuts and rosy revenue projections. The revenues didn't come in as hoped, and that's about to result in even deeper cuts — a continuing saga of slashing.
But Brown's No. 1 priority upon returning to the governor's office after a 28-year absence was to pull together a bipartisan legislative coalition that would authorize a special election asking voters to extend temporary tax increases. Simply put, he failed. Republicans balked. There's no need to rehash it further here.
So now the Democratic governor has changed routes and is headed straight to the voters with a different tax plan. But in detouring around legislative gridlock — created by a two-thirds vote requirement — Brown seems to be driving into a multi-vehicle smashup at the ballot box.
Politically, the governor appears to have survived the first-year failure. His job approval rating (47%) has held relatively steady, although disapproval (36%) has been inching up, according to a recent survey by the nonpartisan Field Poll.But Brown can't afford to fail again in his second year. More important, California can't afford it.
If the governor can't sell voters on a temporary tax hike next November, it probably will mean a shorter school year and even steeper university tuitions — blows to K-12 quality and higher education affordability that will result in long-term damage to California's economy.
Additionally, fewer criminals will be locked up, the safety net for the poor and infirm will be further shredded and many parks will be shuttered. If you don't believe it, look around. Most of that is already happening.
"We cut the ongoing budget deficit by more than half, reduced the state's workforce by about 5,500 positions and cut unnecessary expenses like cell phones and state cars," Brown asserted in a prepared statement announcing his tax proposal. "We actually cut state expenses by over $10 billion…
"The stark truth is that without new tax revenue, we will have no other choice but to make deeper and more damaging cuts to schools, universities, public safety and our courts."
But to have any chance of succeeding with voters, Brown needs to nudge aside some well-meaning — if pesky — allies.
There's a pot full of other tax-hike initiatives also headed toward the ballot. It doesn't take any political genius to understand how that would turn out. There'd be a horrendous collision and irreparable voter confusion. And the response would be "no on everything."